Radar Contact: Airport Traffic Pattern Position Reports

This photo has nothing to do with this article. A photo of an A-10 just increases the overall quality of the website.

You are approaching an uncontrolled airport traffic pattern and you need to know where other pilots are in the traffic pattern. How do you get that information? Two ways. You call on the radio for an airport traffic advisory. You also listen to the flow of position reports from other pilots established in the airport pattern. What you do not do is say, “Traffic in the area, please advise.” I’ll explain why in this week’s show.

Flight levels are those altitudes at or above 18,000 feet MSL, right? In the United States, yes. Everywhere else? Not necessarily. In this week’s show we’ll talk about flight levels because if you fly outside of the United States, you don’t have to be in a jet to reach a flight level. You may enter the flight level regime as low as 4,000 feet in some places.

Wanna be a test pilot? Here’s your chance. I’m running a test of the most important component of the Aircraft Radio Simulator today. You get to take it on a test run. I’ll explain how in this week’s show.

Show Notes:

  1. The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) says, “Traffic in the area, please advise” is not a recognized Self−Announce Position and/or Intention phrase and should not be used under any condition.” (Chapter 4, Paragraph g. 1.)
  2. “Traffic in the area, please advise” is not necessary anyways. Just listen to Unicom at an uncontrolled airport and you’ll get all of the information you need from other pilots’ position reports.
  3. If the radio is silent for a long period of time, that is a traffic advisory in itself–there’s likely no aircraft in the airport pattern.
  4. Position reports and traffic advisories are no substitute for disciplined and continuous clearing for traffic while in an airport pattern. There may be pilots in the airport pattern operating without a radio or pilots in the pattern operating without a brain.
  5. In the U.S. flight levels begin at 18,000 feet MSL unless the local altimeter is extremely low.
  6. Outside of the U.S. flight levels may begin at other altitudes, depending on the country in which you are flying.
  7. In Europe, ATC says flight levels with double zeros differently than in the U.S. U.S. ATC: “Climb and maintain flight level two zero zero.” European ATC equivalent: “Climb and maintain flight level two hundred.” (20,000 feet with the altimeter set to 29.92 inches or 1013 Hectopascals.)
  8. I talked about all this recently at my Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/atc_jeff.
  9. My Twitter feed is all about radio procedures, tips, and techniques with some miscellaneous info about flying. If you follow me on Twitter, I won’t waste your time with off-topic tweets.
  10. A test of the Aircraft Radio Simulator’s speech recognition module is now online and available to try out.
  11. Read all of the instructions at the test page before trying the test. Following the directions will produce accurate test data.
  12. Please tell me about your results by using the 3-question survey at the end of the test. If the pop-up is suppressed by your computer’s pop-up blocker, click the link near the top of the test page to produce the survey.

Update for 27 November 2013: The reference to the speech recognition test module mentioned in this show is no longer applicable. I have taken the test module offline. If you had a chance to try the test module, thank you for your help. I’ll have more announcements about development of the Aircraft Radio Simulator in future Radar Contact Shows.

Your Question of the Week

You have just completed your engine run-up near the runway at an uncontrolled airport. You are holding short of the only runway for Hometown Airport. This airport has a published left traffic pattern for Runway Two and you are facing the left downwind as you prepare to enter the runway. Just as you are about to advance the throttle of your aircraft to take the runway you hear someone key their microphone and say on Unicom, “Hometown traffic, Aerostar 304 Uniform Mike, base leg, Runway Two, Hometown.” You scan the base leg and see nothing. You check the final approach path and see nothing. You check the downwind leg and see nothing. Here’s your question. Remembering there is only one runway at this airport, what would you do at this point?

When you think you know the answer to the question go to ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find the full answer along with a complete explanation of how that answer was derived.

As always, if you have questions of your own, you may always reach me at jeff@ATCcommunication.com.

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